Synod Meeting 2014: Highlights from Day 4
We give you thanks and praise!
Morning worship on Day 4 was enlivened by Hip Hop Church leaders Matthew “Mistery” Peet and Jacob “Izzy” Ballard from KrossWerdz. Members got to their feet and gave “thanks and praise”.
Treasury and Investment Services
Neil King, Executive Director, Uniting Financial Services UFS and Michael Anderson Chairperson UFS Board, delivered the Treasury and Investment Services Board Report. It was reported that Uniting Financial Services has moved forward on the plan presented at last Synod in many ways and we are happy to report the main progress.
In 2012 the GFC had ongoing negative impacts on returns. Distributions allocated in advance were more than subsequent earnings and regulatory change was imminent.
Synod key items from 2013 included the restructure of capital due to the $100m loan through the Property Trust. Distributions were suspended and there was a restructure around new teams and a range of other structural changes.
In 2014, Treasury and Investment Services now has a lower portfolio risk and will restructure to ensure strong capital and liquidity benchmarks for greater efficiencies. It was reiterated that the $100m loan money is ‘not lost ‘, it is there to help build a strong endowment.
It is quite likely there are some assets in the Church that are not being used as well as they could be and changing the asset holding would work towards making available $4.5m (the annual cost of the loan) for mission activities. There has been about a 40% reduction in staff in UFS.
“It is about setting the way for future growth and we believe that is ahead of us,” said Mr King. “Think about us in our place of the body of Christ and how we are contributing to the mission of Christ. It is our role to build stewardship and capital growth and endowment for the future. It is the role of the leadership group to protect the Church interests with Treasury and Investment advice of the high standard.”
Concern was expressed that in terms of ethical investment, the loan comes from the ANZ bank, whose investments aren’t ethical.
“We need to prod the banks towards sustainable investments,” said Mr King. “We take our responsibility seriously in that regard and are not scared to make the tough decisions.”
The Ethical Investment Committee has used the Uniting Church voice with Woolworths and Transfield services.
“It is hard to exclude all banks given we have only a few. We are trying to get the balance right,” commented Mr King. “Help us to help you please give us feedback and we will work to make sure ethical investment is a priority in the Synod.”
A representative from the Illawarra presbytery asked how much of our current situation is actually attributable to the change in the risk variable that we move to rather than other issues?
Neil King responded: “Two and half years ago there was reasonable risk for the Church. We have had a window of opportunity to de-risk. We had $240min in loans that were slightly less than we would like in terms of risk.”
“Our income has been slightly affected in our process. We will be using our investment skills to decrease the risk,” said Mr King. “You have entrusted us and we have to grow the investment and balance out the risk.”
UnitingCare Executive Director Peter Worland said, “UnitingCare is the single largest investor in Uniting Financial Services and is the largest aged care provider in this country. We have complete trust in the UFS team and are working collaboratively and cooperatively with them. I want to affirm the fabulous job that Neil King and his team has done.”
There was Consensus to receive the UFS report.
We can’t have credibility if we don’t have our house in order
A busy morning of proposals were bought forward for resolution on the last day of Synod.
- Proposal 48 – Climate Change
“We can’t have credibility if we don’t have our house in order in terms of emissions.” – The Rev. Garry Derkenne. “The proposal comes from a young Tongan who is concerned about the future of the Synod.”
From the floor questions included: How will this impact smaller congregations? Should we as a Church be lobbying government regarding renewable energy? How is the review going to be assessed?
“The higher our credibility in this area, the more weight our arguments for clean energy have,” said Ex-Moderator, the Rev. Dr Brian Brown.
There was consensus to accept Proposal 48.
- Proposal 49 – Community responses to Islamic People
Consultation with the communities is required so that any statements don’t inflame debate. There was a suggestion that the NCCA become involved in the actions associated Proposal 49 and there was consensus.
Section 16C in regard to the UAICC will go through to Standing Committee to continue the process of discussion with the UAICC.
Section 16B & C – Much discussion was raised about Minister’s Residences and Sales Proceeds, with a resolution to continue the conversations around how to manage some of the finer points of the implementation of the process. There was recognition from a number of tables that some congregations will be adversely affected by sections of Proposal 16B.
Emma Parr, Sydney Presbytery asked for clarification around commercial property purchases. Does this only apply to Minister’s residences?
There was a motion to dismiss the whole proposal due to issues arising from the discussion around missional use of property.
Lindsay Cullen from Far North Coast moved to identify missional use of property and would like guidance from leadership on how to use property in this way.
This matter will be referred to Standing Committee for further deliberation.
Capacity Team Building – Common Good cooperation
The Rev. Kath Merrifield: “ God’s mission has a church. We are introducing the notion of Uniting Church Hubs”.
Hubs are places created from the bottom up that:
- Support culture change with a whole of Church approach to collaboration
- Enable funded and volunteer community services and activities to work together
- Ensure financial viability and sustainable growth of mission and ministry
Synod Mission Plan
Final draft of the Mission Plan is tabled.
- The Rev. Graham Anson would like the Discipleship promoted as the first priority.
- Zac Hatfield-Dodds – Concerns describing it as a mission plan, it is more a strategic plan. I have been disappointed be the process.
- Rev Dr. Dean Drayton – To say the numbering doesn’t matter that’s not the way it won’t be received. We keep reading everything as an optional mission plan for the Church. I believe we need to be so much clearer about the mission of god for the Church.
- Karen Burchell Thomas – This is not to be the end but the beginning of a process. It’s about enabling new initiatives to be taken.
- Amelia Koh-Butler – I was inspired by the Hubs. If we read the mission plan through the lens of the world understanding the world has of mission as the “ five marks of mission”.
Bible Study Uncommon Responsibilities – Genesis 2: 4a-15
The Rev. Jione Havea led the last Bible Study for the gathering with the Uncommon Bible study team.
As Tongan is not a token language just as Korean is not a token language. English is a token language. The Rev. Jione Havea said “We want to thank the Moderator, members of the Synod and worship team for allowing uncommon language. “
“When we go to church we don’t always agree with preachers in the same way we don’t expect you to agree with us. Yesterday we talked about sitting in or sitting out. Why do you prefer to sit outside some songs or have trouble with songs. Or why do you prefer to sit inside the songs?”
“We are hoping that you will help make these things common especially today our responsibility is to earth, which is what Genesis is about . A reminder we live outside the time of the Bible, we live outside the garden,” continued Rev. Havea. “God is the owner and the gardener we are only carers for the earth.”
“Our invitation today is not to take one or the other how do we hold together the need to rule and the need to care. We are reminded that we don’t live in the garden we live outside the garden and things happen outside the garden; tsunamis, cyclones, people are displaced. If a neighbour such as West Papua is on our doorsteps, both nations are on this land as neighbours of this nation.
“The man who tends and cares is created out of dust. The one that rules is created out of the master, ‘Let there be and there was’, said Havea.
What followed was a confronting piece as one of the Uncommon Bible Study team was stripped of her Tongan identity and left on the stage to weep. She was then comforted and guided off the stage by Aboriginal Elders Aunty Dorrie and Aunty Di. This was a moving piece which made us aware of how we treat those in our midst.
The Moderator prayed following the Bible study: “Repent the sins that we have caused, the harms that we have made on this earth, your precious creation. Help us to make the uncommon response to be common, as we live as a living sign of God. We offer this prayer in the sign of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.”
Lunch under the tree with Next Gen
Executive directors Kath Merrifield, John Kitchener, Neil King engaged the Next Gen team in discussion over lunch.
There was lively discussion about how youth fitted into the Church today. The question was asked what boards and committees could be joined. Neil King said we want young people to be skilled and mentored. That is number one. He said the mission plan is set. That is it. It took 9 months to develop and approve. The big thing is when there are interest groups in Standing Committee to make sure no one is left out such as youth. This will be our focus now.
Neil King encouraged everyone to bring forward what they want to do and not wait for it to be “budgeted”.
“There seems to be a whole systematic focus on operations but leadership by young people absent from the Church,” said a member of Next Gen.
Lively discussions focused on what the future vision for the Church four youth in small groups.
Sean Jenkins – “Other Churches are teaching their gospels. You see them everywhere. No one can see us. There isn’t the visibility. We are not doing anything like the other churches. We need to be evangelical. We are expected to know what to do. We have lost the youth culture in the Church. We need to spread the word of Christ much more.”
Barry Porter, Southerland Shire: “We need to empower young people to use their gifts”.
Hayden Charles – “We need more youth groups, more youth making change, more leadership.”
“At the moment the Church is not reaching youth. The numbers of youth in church are just not there. We’re simply not reaching young people,” said one participant. “We could learn a lot from the evangelical style of preaching to reach youth. We need modern music, modern teachings.” said a member of Next Gen.
“The issues important to youth are many, environment, asylum seekers, peace. The Give Hope campaign was something we could be involved in. We need more of this to engage youth.”
Much discussion about property and what lies ahead
Many proposals were brought forward for discussion including those made as a result of the Pilgrim Property documentation. There was disappointment that there wasn’t enough time to discuss and that in the end many proposals underwent changes in word only. It was resolved that Standing Committee will have a responsibility to carry forward the conversations that are important to members.
Faith, Hope and Love
“Our Basis of Union says that The Uniting Church preaches Christ the risen crucified one and confesses Him as Lord to the Glory of God the Father. What do I see when I look around at the Uniting Church today? I see a Church that is remembering how to confess Jesus Christ as Lord in the midst of our society. I see a Church that is deliberately seeking to prioritise growth, discipleship, evangelism and the active proclamation of Christ,” said Myers as he closed Day 4 of Synod with reflection on our time together.
“I see young people passionately committed to the Church and its polity. Passionately committed to discerning God’s Will for them in this world.”
“We often get into discussions about what the Church needs, we are all guilty of this. We want to fix it somehow. What do we really need? Let me have a go, I’d like to suggest three things the Church needs for today and in our future, I made these up see if you like them – faith hope and love! I didn’t make those up it was from something I read, “ he joked.
“Faith – that the Church lives, not by its own resources, but by an empty tomb and an empty cross. Faith that the Churches life is rooted in Jesus Christ. Hope that that we know where we are because we know where we are headed. In all of our struggles our future is fundamentally secure in the empty tomb. Love – the secret of the Churches present is the mystery that is between us when we gather. We relate to one another out of the depth of love for one another.”
Closing Ceremony: The Word is the Light that shines in the darkness”
The Moderator, Rev. Myung Hwa Park sent members out with a blessing which included: “ The Word is the light that shines in the darkness. You are upheld by the prayers of Synod. Sisters and brothers in Christ we have worshipped together we have worked prayed listened together and shared our lives for these four days together we have sought vision values and wisdom one another and together. We ask for God’s blessings for those decisions made. We pray that our time together here will have been for the building up of the whole Church as a living sign of God. We pray to remain open, to take up the responsibilities given to us.”
The Moderator sent members out to be light and a living sign of God as we go from the meeting.
The song was shared – “You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things out of us.”
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